The brief details go something like this:
I was still young when I was adopted, but I was old enough to remember a lot of things.
For example, the smells of things. To this day, 30 years later, I still cannot stomach the smell of beer. If my husband drinks, it’s imperative that he stay far enough away that I can’t smell his breath, and serious teeth brushing happens before he’s allowed near me with a ten foot pole. Just the smell of it sends me into fits of uncontrollable gagging. It’s not that I have anything against beer, and he enjoys it whenever he wants. But it’s an uncontrollable physical reaction to the memory of having nothing but beer to eat or drink as a very small child.
I also can’t handle the smell of garbage. The occasional house we lived in reeked of garbage, and now, present day, the smell of garbage evokes such uncontrollable feelings in me that I go out of my way to avoid it at all costs. I am a bleach the garbage can once a week, take the trash out daily, girl. I’m not the most organized home-maker, but my garbage can is clean enough for inspection.
I remember the way things looked. The house was always a complete wreck. Now- it wasn’t a wreck like you and I, as normal people, might imagine. A wreck to us is toys and laundry and maybe whatever hidden food our kids tried to pretend they ate but actually shoved in a toy box.
No. I can remember people. Really smelly people, sprawled out on the floor. I can remember needles on the stinky carpet and on random sticky tables complete with tipped over beer bottles and cigarette packs. I can remember garbage everywhere. I can remember flies. I remember the way things looked. Today my house is a wreck of toys and crayons and laundry, but you won’t find a single fly and if you do, you’re going to need a strait jacket for me.
Growing up adopted, I was basically a normal kid with extremely strict parents and an inspection ready house. For the most part I was a happy kid. I wasn’t popular, but I wasn’t the pariah, either. I was well taken care of, and well-adjusted to life as a Jones kid. I overcame the statistics that befall children who came from my background.
But the one thing I couldn’t overcome was PTSD and depression.
The doctors preferred to medicate me and then follow up with counseling if I felt it was necessary. It was the way our insurance was set up.
Coincidently, just after the diagnosis and before starting the medication, we found out I was pregnant again. The doctors immediately withdrew their request that I be medicated, and sent me to a therapist instead.
I worked with the therapist, Dana, for over a year. For the first 3 months, I saw her three times a week. Then it went down to once a week. Then it was once a month until one day she sat across from me in her office and said, “Katie, I think we’ve done all we can do. You aren’t healed. You never will be. But you have every tool you need, and you know how to use them.” We left her office and walked around in the shady park behind the building for an hour after that, just chatting about kids, college, and the dreams we had for ourselves.
I saw Dana once, after that. I was about to do an interview following up on a candle light vigil I organized for a pregnant female Marine who’d been murdered by her rapist earlier that year. She sought me out and took my shoulders, holding me out away from her and just looking at me. Finally, she said, “You’re going to be okay,” and then she left.
Dana was right. I was going to be okay. I still struggled with the things that sent me to her: the anger, the fear. I worked very hard for several years, not to curb those feelings, but to express them in ways that were conducive to healing. Sometimes I failed miserably. Sometimes those around me failed me miserably in their lack of understanding and support.
But most of the time I was extremely successful.
If I was honest with myself, I would see that I’d been tired long before I got pneumonia.. in my day to day life, I had no desire to do anything more than curl up on my couch and watch Netflix.
This brings me to yesterday. Yesterday, I took a nap. I’ve recently been sick with a sinus infection and pneumonia, and I’ve just been worn out. So when my kids left for school, I climbed back into bed and slept for 3 solid hours. It’s not normal for me to take a nap unless it’s a lazy Saturday afternoon with my husband home, but lately I’ve been taking a lot of them. A few days ago I took a late afternoon nap that had me sleeping right through my kids returning from school and my husband returning from work.
“How are you sleeping?” I asked myself yesterday. To be honest, my sleep has been complete and utter crap for two months now. “How are you eating?” Dana had asked me.
“How are you eating?” I asked myself yesterday. To be honest, I barely eat. I tell myself I’m very busy, I forgot, I got too lazy to cook something. But honestly, I just don’t feel like eating.
One by one, I began to ask myself all the questions that Dana asked me those first few weeks, and one by one, I began to realize I’d stumbled into a different aspect of depression.
My depression was angry, it always was. It was angry or scared. I would have moments of unexplainable fear that would leave me unable to move. I would have moments of sudden rage that left me shaking and unable to tell a soul why.
But this? This was new to me. If I was honest with myself, I would see that I’d been tired long before I got pneumonia. It was at least a solid month before. Not only was I tired, but I had no desire to do anything. Sure, occasionally I would travel up to Baltimore to work. But in my day to day life, I had no desire to do anything more than curl up on my couch and watch Netflix.
I quit writing. I quit talking to my coworkers, who- coincidentally- are some of my closest friends. I quit working very much. I quit talking to my writers.
I kept track of the people I knew were struggling, and I made a concentrated effort to reach out to them and check on them, often, all the while ignoring what was going on with me.
I was sinking, and I didn’t even know it. I was throwing out lifelines to other people, and I was drowning alone in my own house. I was advising people to take care of themselves, get help, talk to their loved ones, get rest, and eat. And all that time, I wasn’t doing the same for myself.
Yesterday, after I jumped out of my bed and into the first shower I’d taken in a week, I thought about all of it. By the time I stepped out of the steaming shower, I found myself asking “How did you get here, Kate? What happened?”
The exhaustion got me. The exhaustion got me and held on and sucked all of my energy away when I wasn’t paying attention.
But then we moved, and I was promptly sent to Bethesda. Tests were run, buckets of blood were drawn, MRIs were suffered through, and all I had to do was wait.
The waiting. The unknowing. The exhaustion of just not knowing got me.
It got me and it drained everything out of me to the point that I could barely function. I used to stay up all night and write and clean, alternating, getting so much accomplished that I could be proud of. I would stay up until it was time to take the kids to school and then I would crash for a solid six hours and get up and happily, feeling rejuvenated, do it all over again.
Yesterday my shining accomplishment was that I took a shower and I made myself eat a sandwich.
How did I get here?
I stopped paying attention to me.
As I was opening a new file, I got a text message asking if I wanted to meet for coffee. “That’s a perfectly valid way to spend my morning,” I thought. “I don’t need to write right now, do I?”
I could hear Dana answer me back as if she were sitting next to me. “Coffee is great. Hell, I love coffee. But you have work to do for you. You need to be writing. It’s your thing. It’s your biggest coping tool. You know it is. Coffee can wait. You cannot.”
Today I’m going to fight my way back. I’m going to write. I’m going to accomplish things. I’m not going to take a nap, and I’m actually going to unload my dishwasher. I’m not going to turn on my TV until I’ve finished doing something.
Today I’m going to battle against depression, and I am going to get back to taking care of me. Because I can't wait any more.
Many Kind Regards,